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Evergreen Solar Follows Solyndra's Lead

Adam Peshek
March 14, 2012, 1:28pm

Evergreen Solar, a green energy company that that went bankrupt last year after receiving millions in state subsidies, will abandon its Massachusetts plant which cost $450 million to build just five years ago. Much like Solyndra, Evergreen cannot find any interested private buyers during their bankruptcy procedure. The Wall Street Journal reports:

Evergreen Solar Inc. said it has failed to find a buyer for its Devens, Mass., plant and plans to walk away from the facility, which was launched with some $50 million in state aid.

The company asked a bankruptcy judge for permission to abandon the property before a $543,000 property tax bill comes due.

Evergreen has a deal with its landlord, Massachusetts Development Finance Agency, to get out of the ground lease for the facility, according to papers filed in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del. The plant was shut down last year and 800 jobs were cut as Evergreen struggled to survive.

Evergreen was once the heartthrob of the green energy crowd, which was odd since it was never profitable – even after a Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick enticed the company into the state with a $76 million business incentive.

Here is how the company’s final days played out, according to WSJ:

Evergreen filed for bankruptcy in August and eventually sold its technology to a Hong Kong joint venture. A claim for payment in the Lehman Bros. bankruptcy case proved to be worth more than the technology that powered the Evergreen Solar story.

Bondholders "credit bid" $21.5 million for the Lehman claim, meaning they offered to cancel that much of the debt Evergreen owed them. Evergreen's solar-power technology sold for less than $10 million. Others bits and pieces are still being sold, including equipment at the Devens plant. But the plant itself hasn't sold despite more than a year of marketing.

It’s no surprise that the company (and others like it) went bankrupt. Global production of solar products jumped 139 percent shortly before it announced bankruptcy last year. A bigger blow to the company was the drop in silicon prices. Evergreen’s claim to fame was a patented technology that produced solar panels with less silicon, and when silicon prices dropped ten-fold they were left with a technology with little value.

And that's fine. Most businesses don't succeed. Most great ideas fail because of changes in demand, technology improvements, or just bad luck. But taxpayers should never be on the hook for a $56 million mistake.

Evergreen’s demise is similar to Solyndra and other green energy companies that government has chosen over the past few years: get a boatload of government cash, blame your business woes on “global competitors” even though you’ve never shown the capacity to create a profit, fire the workers you promised to employ, shut down your plant, file for bankruptcy, and show the fruits of taxpayer dollars as you abandon your factory and sell your holdings for pennies on the dollar.

Maybe the government should leave the investing to the experts.


Adam Peshek is Research Associate


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